I recently read a great article on why some people have power over companies and others don't. Climbing up the ladder has become increasingly difficult and structures and hierarchies have become more complicated in companies. Management gurus are surprisingly disappointing on the subject of "how you get access to power and how you keep hold of it once you have it" despite it being of overwhelming importance to their clients. There are however some businesspeople providing hints on the paths to power, that are outlined in the article.
Why some people have power, and why others don't? There is a general misconception that if you excel at your job, there is a direct correlation with the reward (and hence the power you get out of it), and news are full of counter-examples. CEO's who lead their companies to bankruptcy seldomly loose their job (or are gently pushed aside with a ginormous cash incentive until they are appointed somewhere else), while perfectly successful leaders in the senior management layer often get routinely cleaned out when new CEOs take over). The (sad) reality is that there are plenty of things that matter more than competence. In fact, there are three things that matter more than anything else:
- Turn yourself into a supplicant: ask for help and master the art of flattery (experiments conducted to discover at which point flattery became ineffective demonstrated that there was none);
- Turn yourself into a node: master your ability to network by starting an organization or forging a link between separate parts of a company;
- Be loyal: this is probably the most important and admirable quality you can have (a Booz study demonstrated that 80% of CEO appointments go to insiders, who last almost two years longer in their jobs than outsiders, on average).
Sadly, if all the above pays off, you're still not saved, and you get to keep power. Remember the old saying - power corrupts - and the key to keeping power is to understand its corrupting effects: cultivate a savant combination of paranoia and humility. Understand how much others want you out, and never forget your own replaceability. Also, know when to quit. Instead of crashing and burning, if you jump before being pushed, there is a good chance of leaping to another throne.